Promising new therapy may help heart attack patients' hearts heal

6 June 2017        

A person clasping their hands over their heart

A naturally occurring molecule called interleukin-4 may help patients recover from a heart attack, according to research presented at the British Cardiovascular Society (BCS) Conference today.

The findings show that heart attack patients with low blood levels of a particular white blood cell, called an eosinophil, have higher death rates in the six months after their heart attack

Reducing death rates

Researchers have also discovered that treating these patients with a molecule called interleukin-4 (IL-4) may help to reduce these death rates.

A team at the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre and University of Edinburgh followed 732 patients who had had a heart attack and measured the level of eosinophils in their blood.

Patients with low blood levels of eosinophil were more likely to die within six months than those who had higher levels of the white blood cell.

Reversing damage

When mice - which were bred to be genetically deficient in this type of white blood cell - were treated with IL-4 after a heart attack, damaging changes to the size, shape and function of the heart caused by the heart attack were reversed.

IL-4 is found within eosinophils, and plays a role in the inflammatory response and tissue repair. Researchers think that IL-4 may be crucial in helping the heart heal after a heart attack.

Further research is needed to see whether IL-4 has the same effects in humans as it does in mice.

A new treatment for heart attack patients

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:

“This exciting research may have uncovered one reason why some people who’ve had a heart attack go on to partially recover, whilst others don’t

“If these results are borne out by future research and larger clinical trials, IL-4 may prove to be a key new treatment for people who’ve had a heart attack.”